New Bethany Baptist Church of Broad River

by Bruce Whitaker

I doubt that many people in Fairview or Broad River have ever heard of New Bethany Baptist Church. I received a copy of some of the church’s meeting minutes from December 11, 1841 to January 16, 1849 from a man in Edneyville—I believe his name was Stuart Nanny—but this was over 35 years ago.

New Bethany was formed in 1833 in the Broad River section of what is now Buncombe County. In 1833, Broad River was part of Burke County. It then became part of McDowell County, and then part of Buncombe County in the mid-1920s. Partisan redistricting now is nothing compared to the past. Broad River was taken out of McDowell County and put in Buncombe County because it was so Republican that its voters almost defeated a powerful Old Fort Democrat in the General Assembly. McDowell County lost almost 100 years of property taxes to save one politician’s seat.

The church was located somewhere between Flat Creek (Nesbitt’s Chapel) and Bald Mountain. Rev. Bailey Bruce (1813–1886) was one of its pastors. He served at many churches within a 40-mile radius of Fairview.

The Church as Court

Few people know that the church acted as a court for troubles that occurred between church members. The minutes taken on December 11, 1841 say the church took up charges against Joseph Craig. He was charged with rioting and frolicking. The case was presented to members of church. The church members listened to the evidence presented in the case and then voted to exclude Craig from the church.

Amos Ownbey vs. Amos Ownbey

On July 30, 1842, New Bethany Church met in session and found all was well except for a charge brought against brother Amos Ownbey against himself for getting angry. The church heard his acknowledgment and restored him to fellowship.

On November 12, 1842, the church met in session and inquired for fellowship and found all was well except for a charge against Isaiah Watkins for destroying J. W. Harris’s fruit trees. A motion was made, and the church voted to exclude Harris.

Toward the end of the church’s existence, members voted to appoint H. Gilliam and W. N. Williams as delegates to the Salem Baptist Association. Brother B. Wright wrote a letter that set forth the condition of the church to the association, asking them to appoint a committee to come and examine the church’s condition and dissolve it if they thought best.

The following are a list of people that were members of New Bethany Church during its brief existence.

Male Church Members

Harris Gilliam, Amos Ownbey, Joseph Ownbey, Joshua Ownbey, Ephraim Ownbey, John Hudgins, Josiah Hudgins, Charles Gilliam, Dobson B. Freeman, Isaac Suttle, Jarrett M. Freeman, Madison Ownbey, Jacob Reed, William Ownbey, Arthur Ownbey, Andrew Clements, James Bass, John A. Coxey, David Searcy and Jarret H. Freeman.

Female Church Members

Mary Gilliam, Mary Ownbey, Amelia Ownbey, Delila Ruff, Mary Hudgins, Susannah Hudgins, Mary Williams, Alziney Freeman, Sinthia Suttle, Anna Freeman, Drusilla Ownbey, Malinda Ledbetter, Catherine Ownbey, Barbara Ownbey, Mary Ownbey, Isabell Ownbey, Catherine Reed, Sarah Gilliam, Armintha Ownbey, Jane Ownbey, Nancy Ownbey, Elizabeth Clements, Sally Ownbey, Ann Searcy, Susannah Huggins, Belinda Ledbetter, Nancy Robinson and Elizabeth Ownbey.

Bruce Whitaker documents Fairview area genealogy. To get in touch with him, contact the Crier at [email protected] or 828-771-6983 (call/text).

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